by Deepak Chopra
October 02, 2011

from SpeakingTree Website

India could lead a global peace movement propelled by ahimsa so that countries transcend the perils of nationalism, writes Deepak Chopra on October 2, designated by the UN as World Nonviolence Day as tribute to M.K. Gandhi.

The worst aspect of old-fashioned nationalism has always been the eagerness of one nation to war against another.


It’s time now for an evolutionary leap and here, India could play a key role. India was founded on peaceful principles and has managed to keep the peace, more or less, among dozens of ethnic and religious factions.

Yet, even as the lure of nationalism has faded in places like Europe, the temptation in South Asia has been to become more nationalistic. National pride is one thing, but another era of “us versus them” thinking would be disastrous.

Students of economics often face the question:

Which is better, guns or butter?

The choice is between military spending and domestic spending.

  • Butter stands for goods and services that people need and use every day; it’s the productive side of an economy

  • Guns stand for spending that drains the economy and is ultimately destructive

A country can decide, as almost all do, to have both guns and butter. But money isn’t infinite, and at a certain point, the choice becomes an either/or.

It’s easy to make the wrong choice. At one extreme, we have the ludicrous tragedy of North Korea, armed to the teeth with a massive standing army but facing widespread famine. Take the United States: After the collapse of the Soviet empire, the U.S. considered scaling back its massive military spending.

President George Bush Sr. and Britain’s Margaret Thatcher promoted the idea of a “peace dividend,” meaning the benefit to a society when it can use more money for its citizens’ well-being if military budgets are slashed. That’s exactly what happened.


Starting in 1985, America’s defense budget was either cut or remained level for 15 years.


Peacekeeper Or Warmonger?

Then 9/11 happened.


The world’s super power engaged in two foreign wars, incurred a hidden but massive expenditure on secret intelligence gathering, and went full throttle on weapons developments.

As the world’s major arms dealer, the U.S. was already playing a double game. It pronounced itself the peacekeeper of the world, maintaining hundreds of overseas bases and intervening in foreign conflicts at will. Military adventurism made it the most feared nation in the world, as it squandered much of the sympathy and goodwill that followed from the tragedy of 9/11.

Coming to India’s position after 9/11: Like other rising economies, India profits most from internal investment that generates jobs, incentives, and innovation.


As against this scenario, shoring up guns is a huge drain on peoples’ lives because every bullet shot and bomb dropped is money taken away from each person’s income.


Every potential worker who becomes a soldier is a waste of creative resources.


Money Isn’t Infinite

The global economy needs international peace.


For 60 years, the U.S. has expended hundreds of billions of dollars worth of funds on military assignments, so that other countries need not defend themselves. However, many of these countries tend to suspect that the “protection” is a ploy to further American geopolitical ambitions.

Howsoever rich a country is, it does reach a point where the reality dawns that money is finite. America may be forced to reduce its military size and shrink the shield it uses to protect other countries.


At the same time, China is flexing its military muscles and exploring new weapons systems, perhaps in a bid to become the next super power, even as it emerges as an economy to reckon with.


Butter Over Guns

India ought to resist the temptation to abandon the peace dividend to go the military way.


If it yields, that would be a profound mistake. The ongoing border conflict with Pakistan has compromised internal peace as well in the two countries.

Since Pakistan’s military is concentrated on the Indo-Pak border, it doesn’t have the strength to handle the insurgency that fuels war in Afghanistan, violence at home and terrorism abroad.


Yet the world’s future, and India’s, depends on repairing the global economy, and the best but often overlooked option is to choose butter over guns.


No Need For A Super Power

There will be no need for a super power to police the world if every nation takes the following two steps:

  • First, decrease military spending and settle old ‘scores’ through negotiation

  • Second, support an international peacekeeper like the United Nations with the power to enter conflicts and save lives

Both steps move away from the destructive side of nationalism while boosting the hope for true globalism. I don’t know what the future holds, but clearly we stand at a crossroads.


If the BRIC countries,

  • Brazil

  • Russia

  • India

  • China,

...want to wield global influence like the U.S., what better way than to become the world’s first peace bloc?